Like most asphalt contractors, P.J. Keating Company, Lunenburg, MA, recognizes that a knowledgeable paving crew can go a long way in preventing segregation and other laydown problems when working with today's challenging mix designs.
Rick Ricker, training director for P.J. Keating, says as mixes get tougher to work with and tolerances get a little harder to meet, training crews to properly use the technology of today is paramount. Equipment manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to update and improve paving technology to help contractors meet today's specifications.
"Four years ago, all the paving crews I had been working with only used 50 percent of what the paver could process," Ricker notes. "Today, all the crews understand the factors that affect the screed and if 'best practices' are not implemented, then mat quality will continue to suffer. Understanding the consequences of not using the screed to its potential affects the quality of paving you can achieve."
For Ricker, paving efficiencies, or a paving crew's ability to place asphalt, are the direct result of following best practices that allow a crew to pave as fast as the mix allows.
"Today, all paver operators I work with are always looking back at the mat to make sure they're not causing segregation or other mat defects," he says.
One crew's story
To illustrate the best practice approach, Ricker points to one of P.J. Keating's crews headed by paving foreman Russ Stanley. The level of quality Stanley's crew achieves on jobs is a direct result of:
- Pre-paving planning — Stanley talks to members of his crew upon arrival at each job. He plans the entire day and shares this information with his crew to make sure everyone is on the same page from start to completion of the work.
- Principles and techniques — Stanley and his team work to maintain all principles and techniques to establish a quality paving job. By using the principles of paving they have learned, crew members understand what the paver and roller can and cannot do.
- Best practices — Stanley implements a best practice approach with every ton, every job and every day. The entire crew knows that when they leave a jobsite, be it a small patch applied by hand, or a highway, they are leaving their signature of a job well done and a reference of the type of work P. J. Keating has built its reputation on.
- Communication — Stanley's continued contact with crew members, sales staff, project superintendents, quality control, plant and the safety department is representative of all paving foremen. If Stanley experiences any problems on a job, he immediately contacts the department involved before proceeding with the project. This practice eliminates the possibility of costly mistakes being made.
- Knowing the consequences — For Keating paving crews, the primary cause of segregation on a job is paving too fast and running the hopper low. Paving operators, foremen and project supervisors try to be heroes by blowing the truck out to get the project done sooner. According to Ricker, if you don't know the consequences of paving faster for the sake of finishing a job sooner, then the paving crew will be back on the same job making repairs.
To illustrate his point, Ricker points to a recent project Stanley's crew worked on. It was a 28-foot-wide road that was estimated to take two days to complete. On the first day, perfect weather conditions allowed the crew to run a 14-foot-wide mat down one side of the road at a rate of 40 feet per minute, with an auger speed of 35 rpms. The mat quality was perfect and density numbers were on target.
Over the weekend it rained and aggregate at Keating's production plant got very wet. When Stanley's crew returned to the project on Monday morning, segregation reared its ugly head. The crew could not return to a paving speed of 40 fpm. Stanley had to drop the paving speed to 28 fpm until the aggregate at the plant had a chance to dry out. But because Stanley understands the paving process and how a change in materials affects equipment performance, he knows how to make adjustments to the process to maintain the quality of the mat and avoid having to return to the project to repair problems that could have been avoided.